It has been nearly 20 years since the death of Minnesota’s own U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento, who succumbed to mesothelioma in October 2000. Born and raised in St. Paul, Vento served the congressional district of his hometown region for 12 terms up until his death.
Vento’s background as a laborer and public school teacher shaped him in understanding the challenges of blue-collar workers and everyday people. This led to his political path, first in the Minnesota House of Representatives and then U.S. Congress, where he was known as a champion for environmental causes, banking reform, public housing and the homeless.
Exposure to asbestos as a young laborer
Vento attributed his illness to exposure to asbestos when he worked as a laborer in his early years. Among the jobs he held as a young adult included on assembly lines for a brewery and refrigerator plant, a laborer at plastics plant and mail room clerk at a newspaper. Just before his death, Vento filed lawsuits against 11 different companies, claiming that he had been exposed to asbestos fibers while working throughout St. Paul.
A bill named after him and introduced in 2007 by his successor U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum never gained traction in Congress. The Bruce Vento Ban Asbestos & Prevent Mesothelioma Act would have increased awareness of the dangers of asbestos-containing materials in homes and workplaces, implemented new guidelines prohibiting the importing, manufacturing and distributing of materials containing asbestos as well as directed health officials to expand research efforts for the disease.
Mesothelioma does not discriminate. It can kill anyone who suffers regular exposure to asbestos. Vento is one of many well-known people to have died from mesothelioma. Secondary exposure to asbestos can even strike family members of constructional and industrial workers who work with asbestos. Their clothing may contain asbestos fibers, which can spread throughout the house and become airborne.